Popisho, an archipelago of unknown location or era is a magical place and one that defies description—much like Ross's book itself. The people of Popisho have their own magic, or cors. Cors takes many forms, with some residents developing incredible abilities, like the macaenus Xavier Redchoose, a once-in-a-generation master chef so gifted he is destined to make each resident of the islands of Popisho their own perfect meal, composed of ingredients he knows they need rather than want. Xavier is a complicated man, full of struggles and regrets. Much of the story is about his deciding and preparing (or not) a wedding feast for the daughter of Popisho's corrupt governor. The language of Popisho is a feast itself—richly descriptive, earthy, colorful, and unrestrained. VERDICT Xavier might be the main course of this tale, but there are many components here, including the role and power of women, broken government, poverty, prejudice, and judgment, all richly blended in an unforgettable work of magical realism by Ross (Come Let Us Sing Anyway).—Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
Citizens of an island nation learn the ways that magic both blesses and curses their lives.
In Popisho, every child is born with "cors": their own particular type of magical power. They become acolytes to those who can teach them skills or are assisted by obeah women, whose “sole purpose was to curate magic.” For Anise, her cors is ironic: She is a healer and diagnostician, though she cannot heal whatever causes her own babies to be stillborn. Xavier’s cors is the ability to conjure any flavor into food with his hands; he is the country’s "macaenus," chosen by the gods to feed every citizen once, at the right time: "a man born to cook just for your individual appetite….He gave you what you needed, and that wasn’t just food: it was inspiration.” As the novel opens, Xavier has been tapped by Popisho’s governor to cook for his daughter, Sonteine, and her fiance on their wedding night—out of turn for a meal from the macaenus. Sonteine appears to have no cors while her twin brother, Romanza, has brought equal consternation to their powerful family by becoming acolyte—and lover—to an “indigent” man, a class of citizen who lives off the land. When a blast of magic affects all the island’s women at the same time, it brings these characters together in new ways and changes everyone’s understanding of love and community. Ross, who lives in England and was raised in Jamaica, wheels kaleidoscopically through different points of view and backward and forward in time, offering readers a cross section of her invented country: its politics, religion, economy, food. Her novel carves out a place in the canon of memorable works of magical realism alongside Midnight’s Children and One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it's also totally itself, a raunchy, sly, colorful exploration of individual and collective identity.
A novel that suffuses the senses.
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A Most Anticipated Book of 2021: The Guardian, The Millions, Paperback Paris, Cosmopolitan UK, Alma
“An impressive act of world building: Enchantingly, [Ross] weaves together a story of second-chance love, a lush ode to food and community, and a humanistic reminder that societies must examine their biases. The resulting work somehow manages to be breezily deep—a rare combination.”
—Jane Yong Kim, The Atlantic
“[Written] throughout with such juice and verve . . . Popisho will please and excite anyone who appreciates literary ambition and risk-taking.”
—Wendy Smith, The Washington Post
“[A] sumptuous novel.”
—Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair
“Mesmerizing . . . a madcap, freewheeling ride through surreal and supernatural territory.”
—Michael Donkor, The Guardian
"You must read [Popisho], easily one of the most gorgeous and lavishly sprawling books of 2021 . . . In recent years, a clutch of incandescently talented writers . . . have reminded us that fantasy is one of the oldest and most imaginative branches of human storytelling. Ross has her own 'cors,' a gift for creating an unforgettable world, and with this book, she takes her rightful place at that table of writers."
—Nilanjana Roy, Financial Times
“A glorious shout of a novel, a sensual, saturated blend of romance, magical realism and erotic comedy . . . For all the exuberance and bigheartedness of [Popisho], it is also a novel of subtle seriousness, asking how we can make peace with profound loss and sadness.”
—Alex Clark, The Guardian
"[Popisho] carves out a place in the canon of memorable works of magical realism alongside Midnight’s Children and One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it's also totally itself, a raunchy, sly, colorful exploration of individual and collective identity. A novel that suffuses the senses."
—Kirkus, starred review
"Wondrous . . . Passing reminders of the works of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Alice Walker serve to establish Ross firmly in the global storytelling tradition of bold and beautiful narratives . . . A stirring literary experience."
—Booklist, starred review
"The language of Popisho is a feast itself—richly descriptive, earthy, colorful, and unrestrained . . . An unforgettable work of magical realism."
—Library Journal, starred review
“An enthralling and vivid portrait of a people and a place, brimming with love, politics, grief, addiction, sex, varicolored humor and some impossible flora and fauna . . . Popisho is a wonder-filled and entertaining reflection on death, freedom, community and recovery.”
—Shannon Hanks-Mackey, Shelf Awareness
“Intensely absorbing, this dazzling tale charts two lovers on the imaginary Caribbean archipelago of Popisho who must find their way back to each other over a single day. Vividly conjured, [it] brings to life a colourful cast of characters facing life-changing decisions across the island . . . Love, second chances and fate, with razor-sharp postcolonial satire, this love story has already drawn comparisons to Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Toni Morrison and Arundhati Roy.”
"Set on a magical archipelago, a big, carnivalesque novel that takes on desire, addiction and postcolonialism, but is also a celebration of food, love and joy."
"This is an ode to the soul, to food, to Caribbean myth and to magic."
—Refinery 29 UK
“A vibrant story of sensual characters and awe-inspiring, sometimes hilarious magic . . . [With] joyous imagining of a peoples’ power . . . this fresh take on magical realism delivers the goods.”
“Noisy, sexy, profusely inventive, Ross's storytelling crashes over the reader like an invigorating ocean wave.”
—Anthony Cummins, The Daily Mail
"Popisho is fire and magic. Leone Ross's ruthless humor immerses us in a dense, rich place where stories twist and worlds collide in audacious ways."
—Ingrid Persaud, author of Love After Love
“Popisho mixes lush, descriptive prose with the unrepentant wildness of folktales. Hands that can heal, palms that glow silver, body parts that abruptly fall off even though their owners keep living abound here. The fierceness of this novel in its imagery, in its ideas about women, the way it spoke to so many concerns of now, drew me in, but the caramel of the relationships, the way Leone Ross writes about intimacy, kept me enthralled.”
—Megan Giddings, author of Lakewood
“I feel like I have been waiting my whole life to read a novel this expansive, this generous, this full of magic and massive personality. Leone Ross is a marvel of a writer, and this book absolutely bespelled me.”
—Amber Sparks, author of And I Do Not Forgive You
“A novel this big in heart and imagination, this beautiful in prose, takes time. And my goodness it’s worth it. This is a stunning novel.”
—Kei Miller, author of Augustown